The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Sister Rose Shappere MID

Ancestor Details

Ancestor's Name: Rose Lena Shappere

Ancestor's date of birth: 1860

Ancestor's date of death: 1943

Cause of Death: Old Age

Service and Life Before the Boer War: Rose Shappere was born in Ballarat in 1859 or 1860, the daughter of Solomon Shappere, a watchmaker and his wife Catherine Asher. In the late 1860s the family moved to Timaru in New Zealand where Rose grew up. Strong contacts had been kept up in Melbourne and part of the family became resident there. Throughout her life Rose was committed publically to the Jewish faith and said so openly in press interviews.

On growing up Rose first became a teacher in Timaru before deciding that she wanted a nursing career. This appears to have occurred at about the same time as the family moved back to Melbourne about 1890. Much against family wishes she began nursing training in Melbourne, first at the Homeopathic Hospital then later at the Prince Alfred Hospital. Her training was complete by 1893 and she worked with medical practitioners as a private nurse initially. She then spent twelve months working at Perth and Kalgoorlie hospitals and by early 1899 she was working at Adelaide hospital. As the situation in South Africa became increasingly more serious most people accepted that trouble was on the way. It is unlikely that Rose understood the implications of the outbreak of war but she believed that her nursing skills would be necessary whatever happened in the Transvaal. She arrived in Johannesburg via Durban sometime between June and August 1899 and began work at Johannesburg hospital.

Service Number: Not applicable

Colony or State of enlistment: Not Australia, Place of Enlistment: South Africa

Unit: Various medical units Boer and British

Rank attained in Boer War: SR, Date Effective: 1900

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): No further military service.

Murray Page: Not recorded in Murray

Contingent: Nursing Sister

Ship: Detail not available

Memorial details: Melbourne

Awards/Decorations/Commendations: Queen's and King's South Africa Medals, Mentioned in Despatches

Personal Characteristics: determined and adventurous

Reasons to go and fight: Passionate about saving life

Details of service in war: When the war broke out she joined a Boer Field ambulance operating from Standerton. She discovered that the Boer Ambulance was not neutral and stated that she was instructed that the ambulance was only to treat Boer wounded. Now understanding what the war would mean she resigned from the Ambulance although Commandant Eloff (Kruger's grandson) offered her a large sum to stay on. After tidying up nursing administration in Standerton she headed for Delagoa Bay in Portuguese Mozambique. She eventually reached Natal by sea and travelled by train to Ladysmith as the siege was beginning. She records that the train she was travelling in was shelled by the Boers but no one was injured. Whilst at Ladysmith she met up with her brother, Corporal Harry Shappere, a British regular of 'A' Battery Royal Field Artillery, neither had known of each others presence in Ladysmith. Harry would be invalided to England with enteric after the siege ended. (When he retired from the British Army he seems to have resided at Bondi, NSW for the rest of his life.)The siege lasted for 118 days and rations became very short. Rose later recalled; "Our daily ration for the last fortnight or three weeks (of the siege) consisted of one sixth ounce of tea, 30 gm sugar, 1 kg of bread made from mealies (not really edible) or 1 kg bully beef. Sometimes in place of tea we got awful coffee and at 7 pm a cup of horseflesh soup and it was generally bad. In Ladysmith they had it made into sausages but by the time we got it, it was high. Breakfast 7.30 black tea and bread. Dinner 1 pm meat and a little rice, 4 pm black tea and at 7 pm soup. Imagine working in wards like a Trojan on that diet often until 10 pm at night." Following the lifting of the siege she was in such a poor condition that she was sent to the coast to recuperate on the Princess Christian Hospital train. Later she would work in a variety of hospitals including Capetown (5 General Hospital), Woodstock, Winberg, Elandsfontein (16 General Hospital), Bloemfontein (8 General Hospital) and Johannesburg. Medal rolls at the beginning of 1901 note her as a locally enrolled nurse and eligible for the QSA with the clasps Orange Free State and Cape Colony.

After recovering she was assigned as nursing superintendent on the 'Tagus', a hospital ship conveying invalids to England. She returned to South Africa on the 'Carisbrook Castle'. In all she made three such trips, the others being on the 'Assaye' and 'Avoca'.

She was appointed to the Princess Christian Army Nursing Service Reserve moving from the status of a locally enrolled nurse. It is not clear that records ever caught up with this move. She returned briefly to Melbourne in January 1901 but returned to South Africa with the 5th Victorian Contingent (5VMR) on board the 'Orient' departing 15 February 1901.

See full story in Soldiers section.

Service and life after the Boer War: After the war she went back to civilian nursing first back in Johannesburg. Nursing continued in two London hospitals 1904-05 including the Western General Dispensary and it was reported in the press that she had been appointed matron of the Queen Victorian Memorial Hospital in Nice. She does not seem to have remained long there if she took up the position as she appears to have been back in Melbourne sometime in 1907 as matron of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Heidelburg, Victoria.

In 1908 she married Edmund Julius Elkan (also spelt Elman or Elkin in some documents) when her address was Albert Park, Melbourne. She does not seem to have continued nursing after her marriage. She died in South Yarra in 1943 at the age of 84.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Stanley (Hec) Goodall, Coffs Harbour NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great nephew


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